Mark Geragos (@markgeragos) is a criminal defense lawyer who has represented high-profile clients like Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, Gary Condit, Susan McDougal, Chris Brown, and Scott Peterson. He is the co-author of Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works…and Sometimes Doesn’t.
“You never know what’s going to happen — especially when you’re kind of the emergency room doctor of the law.” -Mark Geragos
What We Discuss with Mark Geragos:
- How (and why) does a criminal defense lawyer stand up for the rights of someone who seems clearly guilty?
- How nonverbal communication and body language are used effectively in the courtroom.
- The court of public opinion and why it matters today more than ever.
- The skills Mark uses to control his emotions during life and death trials.
- What Mark witnessed in his youth that ensured his choice to defend people from criminal charges rather than prosecute them.
- And much more…
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Worksheet for This Episode
Defending the rights of people already found guilty by the court of public opinion is hard enough — but doubly so when they also happen to be famous.
Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works…and Sometimes Doesn’t co-author Mark Geragos is a criminal defense lawyer who has represented some of the highest profile defendants in the past 20 years, including Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, Gary Condit, Susan McDougal, Chris Brown, and Scott Peterson. Here, we get a rare peek into his world and how it works. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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More About This Show
Celebrity lawyer and co-author of Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works…and Sometimes Doesn’t Mark Geragos was kind enough to do this interview on a Saturday at short notice, but he assures us he’s no stranger to working weekends.
“About 10 years ago on a Sunday morning, I was in L.A.,” he says. “It was about 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning and I got a call from a buddy out in New York. He said, ‘I’ve got a client. LAPD’s got an arrest warrant for him. His name’s Chris Brown and the victim’s name is Rihanna. And I said, ‘Okay. I’ll meet him at the hotel.’ They didn’t want him to get arrested on the stage at the Grammys that evening.
“So I walked into my then-16-year-old daughter’s room, woke her up, and said, ‘Teny, who’s Chris Brown and what is a Rihanna?’ She said, ‘Dad, you’re such a loser!’
“So that’s Sunday morning. You never know what’s going to happen — especially when you’re kind of the emergency room doctor of the law.”
From accompanying his lawyer father into the courtroom during his formative years, young Mark found a career in law appealing on many fronts.
“You go in,” says Mark. “There’s no real heavy lifting. You shoot your mouth off. You get a two-hour lunch. And then you go home at four or five o’clock. I was kind of attracted to it because I loved the idea of using your brain; my father was very skilled at making us do chores and hard work so we’d know what the alternative was!”
“How Can You Defend That Scumbag?”
As a criminal defense attorney, Mark is often called upon to stand up for the rights of those considered by many to be the dregs of humanity. But just as a doctor swears to preserve all life — not just the most popular — a lawyer in the role of advocate zealously asserts the client’s position under the rules of the adversary system.
“I don’t lose sleep over the people that I defend who I think are good for it. The cases I lose sleep over are the ones where I think the client is innocent. That, to me, is the real pressure,” says Mark.
Mark could have become a prosecutor, but his philosophy mirrors that of the late judge Clarence “Red” Stromwell: “Don’t bring me or prosecute any cases in my courtroom for crimes I would’ve committed or have committed.”
His course was further influenced by witnessing his father prosecuting a teenager who wound up being sentenced to prison for 16-18 months simply for being in a room where marijuana was smoked.
“It just blew my mind. I couldn’t get my brain around it. How could this kid go to prison and have his life ruined for just being in a room where somebody else was committing a crime?”
Advocating In Public
“If you don’t respond in the court of public opinion, then you’ve lost your case,” Mark says.
When Mark is advocating for a high-profile client, he doesn’t have the luxury of limiting that advocacy to the courtroom — he has to advocate in public as well.
“You have to understand basically who your audience is in any particular case,” says Mark. “Sometimes if it’s a case that I know for instance is never going to go to jury trial, my audience may be the prosecutor and the judge — so I may take a different tact. If I know the case is going to have to be tried and it’s going to be in the jury pool, then I’ve got a duty to respond to whatever the prosecution’s doing in terms of painting a picture of my client. Otherwise…there’s a real problem, because by the time I get to picking a jury, I may be so far behind the eight-ball that it doesn’t matter what goes on in the courtroom with the evidence that we’re never going to get past the jury selection.”
Helmuth von Moltke the Elder once said that “no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.” Mark agrees, and says the most important thing to keep in mind is to remain fluid — capable of adapting to the changing tides of battle in the courtroom.
“The mark of a true trial lawyer is when you can ask a question you don’t know the answer to and you get the answer you want,” says Mark.
Listen to this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show to learn more about what it takes for a lawyer to secure a pardon for his client from a president or governor, why Mark chose to become a defender rather than a prosecutor, the tolls of representing a celebrity in a high-profile case, what Mark means when he tells a client they “can beat the rap, but not the ride,” the difference between advocating in the courtroom and advocating in public, why a good trial lawyer needs to be a constant student of human nature, how studying anthropology in college has served Mark’s legal career, how Mark maintains composure during a particularly emotional trial, and lots more.
THANKS, MARK GERAGOS!
If you enjoyed this session with Mark Geragos, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works…and Sometimes Doesn’t by Mark Geragos and Pat Harris
- The Reasonable Doubt podcast
- Mark Geragos’ website
- Mark Geragos at Twitter
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Clinton Pardons McDougal, Hearst, Others by Josh Gerstein and Beverley Lumpkin, ABC News
- How Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio Became the Most Hated Lawman in America by Michelle Mark, Business Insider
- Gideon v. Wainwright
- Crawford v. Washington
- Give Me Back My Reputation!: Ex-labor Secretary Donovan Is Acquitted After a Nine-month Trial by George J. Church, Time
- Sheppard v. Maxwell
- Irving Younger’s 10 Commandments Of Cross Examination at UC Hastings College Of The Law
- Attorney for Family of Unarmed Man “Executed” By Police Outraged Cop Acquitted of Manslaughter
Transcript for Mark Geragos | How Celebrities Stay out of Jail (Episode 243)
Mark Geragos: [00:00:00] To be a good trial lawyer, you need to be a student, a constant student of human nature, and you have to understand human nature.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:10] Welcome to the Jordan Harbinger Show. I’m Jordan Harbinger. As always, I’m here with my producer Jason DeFillippo. If you are a listener of our previous podcast, which we won’t name just now, you might have some questions. I get it. We’ll handle all that at some point, but right now let’s focus on the future. In our immediate future, we have Mark Geragos. He is such an interesting character, man. I’ll tell you right now. When I first had the opportunity to do this show, I thought a celebrity lawyer, I don’t know, it’s not really up my alley, but I realized not only is he one of the smartest guys in L.A. and one of the most well-known lawyers in the country — he’s represented Michael Jackson went on a rider, Gary Condit, Susan McDougal, Scott Peterson — he even got a presidential pardon for one of his clients, Susan McDougal. That process alone was fascinating enough for the legal geek, former lawyer in me.[00:00:56] But today, for you, we’re going to explore why non-verbal communication and body language actually matter in the courtroom and how he has mastered this formula for himself and of course for his celebrity clients if they hit the stand and we’ll discuss the court of public opinion and why it matters even more today than ever and we’ll uncover the skills Mark uses to control his emotions during life and death trials in some of the highest profile cases, not only in our country but in the world. So please enjoy this first episode of the Jordan Harbinger Show with my friend Mark Geragos. Mark, definitely thank you for doing this. I know it’s Saturday.
Mark Geragos: [00:01:31] Saturdays? You’d be shocked at how often I work on Saturdays.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:01:35] Yeah, I mean, you know, I wouldn’t be having worked with a bunch of lawyers recently. Now I’m like, “These guys are on 24/7.” And when I used to work at a law firm, I thought that I was just getting a typical Wall Street, first year associate or junior associate deal where you work seven days a week. But now I realize if you’re a lawyer and you got work to do, you’re doing it and it doesn’t really matter when it is or what day it is.
Mark Geragos: [00:01:59] It’s exactly right. Nothing you could do.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:01] And I think for you especially, working with celebrities and the high profile clients that you do work with, you’re not telling Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, Gary Condit, Susan McDougal, Scott Peterson, “Hey look, it’s Sunday. So I’m Netflixing. What? Is this important?” Because they’re saying, “Yeah, I’m being prosecuted by the Attorney General, or I’m on death row or if this doesn’t work.”
Mark Geragos: [00:02:26] I tell you a story and it’s absolutely true that about 10 years ago, on a Sunday morning, I was in L.A., it was about 5:30 or six in the morning and I got a call from a buddy out in New York and he said, “I’ve got a client, LAPD, Los Angeles Police Department’s got an arrest warrant for him. His name is Chris Brown and the victim’s name is Rihanna.” And I said, “Okay, I’ll meet him at the hotel.” They didn’t want him to get arrested on this stage at the Grammy’s that evening. So I walked into my, then 16-year-old daughter’s room, woke her up and said, “Teny, who’s Chris Brown and what is a Rihanna?”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:07] Oh my God. And she said?
Mark Geragos: [00:03:09] She said, “Dad, you’re such a loser.” So that Sunday morning. You never know what’s going to happen, especially when you’re kind of the emergency room doctor of the law.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:17] Would they really arrest somebody on stage at the Grammys? Would they walk into that awards show and say, “Is Chris Brown here?”
Mark Geragos: [00:03:24] I would have thought that LAPD might have lingered for the performance and as he walked off stage, done it. In a previous life, I was a rock and roll concert promoter back in the late ’70s, early ’80s and while I was going to law school and I had a group called Siouxsie and the Banshees, I don’t know, it was probably before your time and Siouxsie got into it with somebody in the mosh pit and the Pasadena police arrested the guitarist as he came off stage right after the show. Much to my chagrin as the promoter.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:59] Well I guess you could. You got a good excuse for not paying them right away. Sorry. He was in jail.
Mark Geragos: [00:04:05] No. They wanted me to bail them out immediately.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:07] Oh my gosh. Yeah. Well you know, of course, who else do they have? But it was nice of them to wait for the show to finish. You know, they could’ve just said, “Unplug it.” Right? I guess they could have ruined your business too, but they didn’t.
Mark Geragos: [00:04:18] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:20] So the police aren’t all bad when it comes to arresting people on stage.
Mark Geragos: [00:04:24] You know as hard a time as I give cops, there really are some spectacular officers, first responders and I mean spectacular. I couldn’t be more complimentary of most who do their job. But like anything else, I mean, you know, I can, don’t get me started on dumb shit lawyers. I mean, you know, there’s horrible lawyers. There’s horrible law enforcements like any other occupation.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:49] Yeah, well there’s a reason that we, as attorneys, because I’m still licensed in the State of New York, so I can still say we, there’s a reason we have a bad rep. I mean, as an attorney, whenever people go, well I don’t mean you, when I say lawyer joke, this is a lawyer joke that I’m thinking, “Of course not.” But I’ve had lawyers where, I had a lawyer when I was in New York where I was suing some former employees of company that I used to run. This lawyer would ask to meet in this office building and whenever we would go in there, it would be dark. And then we would go, “Where’s your office?” And he would never answer the question. And we would never sit down anywhere. And he would try to open conference room doors and they’d be locked and he’d say, “I don’t know why it’s locked.” And then another time, he had us meet in another office building and we went, “Wait a minute, you don’t have an office, you’re just pretending that you have offices in Manhattan and you’re walking into vacant buildings where people are done for the day and you’re pretending.”
Mark Geragos: [00:05:39] So funny. I love that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:40] And I thought, what kind of crappy lawyer do we have? And we found out when he just stopped showing up to court.
Mark Geragos: [00:05:47] Well, you know, there’s so many stories like that of guys who just can’t make it. You know, I’ve known some spectacular lawyers, both prosecutors and defense lawyers. You know, the first 15 years of my career I did nothing but criminal defense and they would always interest me. Somebody could be a great lawyer, but you take them out of a County or a municipal or a government-run office and they can’t last two or three months because there’s also a skill set to running a business.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:18] That’s for sure. And you see a lot of brilliant lawyers at firms that don’t know how to run a business, and you see a lot of people that probably shouldn’t be lawyers, but run a practice like nobody’s business, right? They’d rock it.
Mark Geragos: [00:06:28] That’s exactly right. I know some very successful lawyers who literally could not try a case to save their life, but they found a niche and they do well.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:39] Looking at the news cycle, this is something that you have mastered riding and you have a very distinct set of skills — Liam Neeson style. You have different sets of skills that are very complimentary in a lot of ways, and I want to dig into this, but first I want to know why you went to law school because I went to law school because I didn’t know what to do with my life. I couldn’t get a job at freaking Best Buy, even though I had a degree from the University of Michigan and I spoke at the time, I think three languages. I couldn’t get a job selling freaking CDs. So I just panicked and went for more education. Did you have a deeper purpose going to law school? Or was it like, “I don’t want to be a doctor and I’m Armenian. I don’t have a choice.”
Mark Geragos: [00:07:16] My history is that I grew up first 13 years of my life, literally the same month I was conceived, my father started as a Deputy District Attorney in the L.A. County DA’s office. And first 13 years of my life, I jokingly say, or maybe not so jokingly, I thought my first name was Dumb and my middle name was Shit because that’s all he ever called me. But I would tag along and watch him in court and I used to think, “This is the greatest job of all.” I mean you go in, there’s no real heavy lifting. You shoot your mouth off, you got a two-hour lunch and then you go home at four or five o’clock. That’s, you know, as a prosecutor. So I was kind of attracted to it because I love the idea of using your brain because my father was very skilled at making us do chores and hard work so we know what the alternative was.[00:08:10] And pulling rocks out in the wash and crazy stuff like that. But ultimately I was fascinated with the law. I read To Kill a Mockingbird. I can’t tell you how many times I used to watch the old TV show Perry Mason. And I just thought the most noble profession you could have is to be a criminal defense lawyer defending somebody who was unjustly accused.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:34] Right. I agree with you there. The problem is a lot of your clients would be, well not yours, a lot of clients that any criminal defense lawyer has are very justly accused. I’d love to talk about what you do when that happens because one thing that non-lawyers, my wife included, seemed to have trouble with is the idea of that — the idea that everyone deserves zealous advocacy, and I’m sure you run into this all the time, like, “Oh, how are you defending that guy? He’s a scumbag.” And the fact is that it’s important for everyone to have a good defense even if they’re scumbag.
Mark Geragos: [00:09:09] I look at it in two different ways and it’s playing out actually internationally right now. I used to always win early in my career. People would always say, “How do you defend this guy? How do you defend that guy? And I’d say, “You know, I don’t lose sleep over the people that I defend who I think are good for it. The cases I lose sleep over are the ones where I think the client is innocent. I mean that to me is the real pressure.” But part of what you do, and one of the cases that kind of catapulted my career into the stratosphere was a case back in the ’90s involving Susan McDougal who was Bill Clinton’s business partner. She and her husband were Bill and Hillary Clinton’s business partner in the Whitewater Development Corporation, real estate.[00:09:53] And I used to complain back then about the Office of Independent Counsel and I complain about the Feds and I complain about the fact that the prosecution and the investigation was biased and it was political. And you know, the Ken Starr was the opposite independent counsel and I said he was politicized and he was doing the Republican Centric lifting and now you watch the molar investigation and the same Republicans who I was complaining about, then were using the criminal justice system for political purposes are now claiming that the Democrats have infiltrated and the Russia investigation is biased and, and is not an honest investigation. And that the investigators are corrupt and they have political agendas. And it’s exactly what we were arguing back in the ’90s. Except we’ve just flipped the actors.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:46] Getting a presidential pardon from one of your clients, speaking of Susan McDougal, that is, I don’t even know where to put that on the charts, right? That’s almost the grand slam of not guilty, but it’s not even that. It’s beyond that. It’s as high as you can go.
Mark Geragos: [00:10:59] One of the reasons I’m so proud of the work was Susan came to me and she had already been convicted. She was on trial with the then governor of Arkansas, her husband in Arkansas, and she was convicted, refused to testify in front of the Grand Jury. They put her into custody for civil contempt and then they brought her to Los Angeles to try her for an embezzlement case. That’s how I met her and some of my other clients who were in custody at the time in the women’s prison. It’s actually the women’s jail back then, had told her that she needed to talk to me. She talked to me. I ended up trying that case out here in L.A. for 15 weeks.[00:11:39] She got acquitted on all counts. Then the Office of Independent Counsel indicted her for obstruction of justice and criminal contempt. So I’m one of the few humans that’s ever tried an obstruction of justice independent counsel or special counsel type prosecution. She was acquitted of the obstruction of justice, but she still had that felony conviction from the original one that I didn’t try. And so literally we ran through all of the hoops to try to get her her pardon. And one of the three last pardons that Bill Clinton gave was to Susan McDougal so that I do consider that to be the two back-to-back state, federal acquittals and then a presidential pardon. That’s about as good a three bagger as you can get.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:24] Yeah, that’s kind of like, that’s sort of like winning multiple championships, I would say at that point. But I want to know about the hoops of a presidential pardon.[00:12:32] How much of this are we able to discuss? Because that’s a process that has no transparency for the general public, that doesn’t maybe research this.
Mark Geragos: [00:12:41] Yeah. People always think or they tend to think that it has something to do with your jewels or your influence or this or that. But there is a process by which you go through and that’s not to say that having access is harmful. I’m sure listeners would remember, at least on the state pardon level, when Schwartzenegger pardon the son of another legislator on his way out the door, he’s governor in California and people would also say about Bill Clinton that the pardon of Marc Rich, who was a financier who had fled the country was also something that did not seem to go through the normal processes. But normally what you do is, you put together a pardon or a commutation application and there’s certain things that you have to go through.[00:13:32] You have to show, you have to put together the package. You then have a, there’s an investigation that’s done. Generally the prosecutor is invited to weigh in. I know that one I’m currently working on in the state in California. The prosecutor joined with us in this particular application or we just literally, within the last month, went through what’s called the in-bank parole board hearing where they vote on it as well in the state. And people should know the differences federally. The president can only pardon somebody for federal crimes. If you’ve got a state crime, your governor, wherever that state is, is the one who can pardon. And generally, the only things that are non-appealable in the criminal law are a not-guilty verdict or a pardon. And you know, that’s the way the founders set it up and it’s been the law for God knows how long. People may remember when Donald Trump, pardon Joe Arpaio, who was the sheriff who had been found in criminal contempt in Arizona back in November, that that was a federal case and he pardoned Joe Arpaio. That sheriff who I have very little use for, who now is running for the US Senate or Jeff Flake seat in Arizona.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:57] That Joe Arpaio, to give people a little bit of background, he’s a sheriff that is so, well, his reputation is extra, extra, extra, extra hard on crime. But to the point where it’s really a lot of cruel and unusual punishment going on depending on who you ask. And also a lot of racial profiling in ways that is, has been legislated and adjudicated as completely reprehensible and unlawful. And he just said, “Screw it. I don’t care. I’m going to do it anyway.” And so he was brought to charges. Did I get that more or less correct?
Mark Geragos: [00:15:30] Yeah, you got that very well. There’s also an article floating around out there and I forget which publication that did an in-depth study of his history and it’s truly frightening. He conspired with one of the prosecutors to indict and arrest people who were political rivals of his and board of supervisors, I believe is what it was. Later when it was exposed that he had just kind of ginned up the prosecution, he ended up costing the taxpayers millions of dollars because of the phony ginning up of the charges. His racial profiling, he was found guilty of by a federal judge. But he was pardoned for, I mean, it was some of the most outrageous things this guy used to do, I guess certain pockets, if you will, of the Arizona constituency loves him. But certainly it’s nothing to that I would ever say is something that you would want to probably emulate if your lawn.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:33] Yeah. This certain pocket of Arizona citizenry that really loves Joe Arpaio. And pardon me if you’re listening and you think you’re one of them, but tend to be people that think, “Well, look, Latinos just commit more crimes. Okay.” So we’re looking at, it’s like that kind of mindset.
Mark Geragos: [00:16:46] That’s exactly right. I always think it’s offensive. I mean, it’s offensive enough if you practice in the criminal courts to, you know, walk in there every day and basically see the same demographic and the demographic is, you know, 80 percent of what’s running through the courthouses are processing generally of minorities and indigents on drug crimes or things that are related to drugs. I mean, literally 80 percent of the volume of the criminal courts and it’s such a useless feudal enterprise because generally you’re going to find that — once again, my father, who was my hero used to say, if you want to clean up crime, just incarcerate all males from the ages of 16 to 24. And now, you know, there’s something to that. I mean I generally, most crime is committed by males in that kind of age group for biological, cultural reasons and things of that nature and economic reasons.[00:17:51] But there’s other solutions than just building more prisons and incarcerating people and kind of recycling them if you will or warehousing them. It just seems it hasn’t worked. It doesn’t make any sense. And I think obvious solutions that make more sense, whether it’s a compulsory draft where you can’t have deferments and you’ve got to do a mandatory two years of service in either the armed services or in some kind of community service alternative. If you’re not somebody who’s inclined to do that, I think that gives you or gives people a place to go where there’s structure while your brain is still developing as a male especially.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:32] I can see that. I definitely think some sort of regimented civil service, even if it’s not a draft in the military would be interesting.[00:18:41] This episode is sponsored in part by The Great Courses Plus. To be your best personally, professionally, you need to keep yourself challenged and continue learning as much as possible. And one of the ways that I do that is by watching and listening to The Great Courses Plus. Jason, I know you’re big on this, especially because they give unlimited access to learn from a lot of leading professors, experts in all over the place about anything that interests you. Business, psychology, history. What were you doing, Jason, on The Great Courses Plus?
Jason DeFillippo: [00:19:07] Oh man. I bounce around every night when I’m done with Lito, my mindless TV. I’ll throw in a course. The nice thing is you can browse by chapter and you can find just a chapter that you like on something that really interests you. It’s really nice for just trying to unwind at the end of the day and still learn something. I love that part about it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:23] Is that your way of saying you fall asleep to The Great Courses Plus?
Jason DeFillippo: [00:19:26] I have been known to, yes. Yes. And I’ve had many dreams about chess because I got big into chess for a while. So yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:32] But I don’t mean to say that this sounds boring. Honestly. The Great Courses Plus is really fascinating and there’s over 9,000 lectures, so if you’re bored by all 9,000 that’s your problem. There’s a lot of really good stuff in here. You can also just listen instead of watching. You can listen podcasts style through The Great Courses Plus app. They’ve got a great course called Boosting your Emotional Intelligence. Not sure if that fits the demographic, but anyway, this course is led by a professor from UC San Francisco. Great tools to help us understand and control our emotions. Similar to what we were talking about with Mark Geragos and also this stuff can help you improve your personal relationships, interactions at work, decision-making, physical wellbeing. I know you’ll love The Great Courses Plus as much as I do. They’re given all Jordan Harbinger Show fans a free trial with unlimited access to enjoy all the lectures, but you need to go to our special URL, thegreatcoursesplus.com/Jordan. Sign up at thegreatcoursesplus.com/jordan and enjoy unlimited access to this and let me know if you find any gems, I’ve yet to peruse[00:20:31] all 9,000. There’s just too many, so if you find something great, do let us know. Support for the Jordan Harbinger Show comes from our friends at Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. This is the mortgage company that decided to ask “Why?” Why can’t clients get approved in minutes rather than weeks? Why can’t they make adjustments to their rate and term in real time and why can’t there be a client focused technological mortgage revolution? In other words, why the hell do you have to go to a bank and fill out 18,000 pages of paperwork instead of doing it on a website like you do everything else. Quicken Loans answered all these questions and more with Rocket Mortgage, which gives you the confidence you need when it comes to buying a home or refinancing your existing home loan. It’s simple. It allows you to fully understand the details. Be confident you’re getting the right mortgage for you, whether you’re buying your first home or your 10th home. With Rocket Mortgage, you get a transparent online process that gives you the confidence to make an informed decision. Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. Apply simply, understand fully, mortgage confidently. To get started, go to rocketmortgage.com/forbes. F O R B E S equal housing lender licensed in all 50 States, NMLS consumeraccess.org number 3030.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:40] I am curious though, which crimes did you commit between the ages of 16 and 24?
Mark Geragos: [00:21:44] God, I can’t. I mean one of the reasons that I never felt comfortable. I mean I was offered a job as a prosecutor coming out of law school and I really, there was a judge who by his name, Clarence Stromwell — Red Stromwell. And Red was a legendary LAPD detective in his day, back in the forties and then he became a superior court judge when I was first starting out and he used to have the expression that don’t bring me or prosecute cases in my courtroom for crimes I would’ve committed or I have committed. And that was kind of my philosophy is like, “How do I want to be a prosecutor and prosecute people for these bullshit crimes.” In fact, one of the way I mentioned before that when I was 13 my father left the DA’s office. I like to think that it was because I went with him to court once and back then this would’ve been 1969 or so.[00:22:39] He was prosecuting some kid. And when I say kid, I mean a 17- or 18-year-old for being in a room where marijuana was smoked. I’ll never forget this kid got either 16 or 18 months for being in a room where marijuana was smoked and it just blew my mind. I couldn’t get my brain around it. How could this kid go to prison and have his life ruined from just being in a room where somebody else was committing a crime? And I like to think I talked to my father, we had this heartfelt talk, and my mother later on told me, “No, don’t be an egotistical maniac.” I told him he had to leave the office because I wasn’t putting three sons through college — his three sons through college — on $17,000 a year of the DA’s salary.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:25] That’s incredibly disheartening to hear that prosecutors even do prosecute things like that. It just seems, not only is it wasteful, but I mean the waste of human potential for something like that is just so extreme. You could put a kid in prison —
Mark Geragos: [00:23:38] Well, go down — where are you located?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:40] I’m in San Jose, California.
Mark Geragos: [00:23:42] Okay. There is a courtroom in East Los Angeles. I believe it’s Department six. East Los Angeles is in the City of L.A. and this courthouse and this courtroom are designated, it’s Weed Court — W E E D — and they do nothing but prosecute people who are cannabis providers, medical marijuana providers. Mind you, virtually every single one of these people that they’re prosecuting, the City of L.A. is collecting their business tax from these people. On the one hand, and on the other hand, the L.A. city attorney is prosecuting these people. Trying to put them out of business. It’s the craziest situation you’d ever see. And nobody, the prosecutors, when you tell them that when you go through it, they just look at you like, you know, somebody hit him between the eyes with a baseball bat and they just, they don’t understand why this is somehow hypocritical or crazy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:41] The baffling parts of criminal defense don’t only come on the prosecutorial or government side though. When I was doing a legal clinic back a decade or so ago in law school, one of the clients that I had that was the most interesting and really stuck with me was a guy who had allegedly, because I remember I have to say that, robbed a 7-Eleven or liquor store and they had him on video walking in, stealing a bunch of stuff, threatening the clerk with a blunt object and getting some cash and leaving and he would not admit it. And he was saying, “I’m not admitting. That’s not me. That’s not me on the camera.” And you know, I looked, but it really was definitely somebody who looked exactly like him and I asked him, “Hey look man, why do you keep saying that? Because if we plead guilty, you’re probably just going to get probation.[00:25:31] You don’t have much of a record. We can talk to the prosecutor.” And he said, “No, I know that if I go to court and you work for the government because you’re a white dude, I’m in trouble.” And I said, “No, I work for you man. I work for you. I work at this law clinic. I’m not governmental at all.” And he just didn’t believe me and he was like, “I’m not telling you shit because if I say that I did that, you’re going to tell the cops and then I’m going to go to jail and it’s going to be this whole thing.” And no matter what I did, I could not explain to him.
Mark Geragos: [00:26:00] Well there is saying I’ve been for years, I used to, when a client, “I’d ask the client, do you have a lawyer?” And he’d say, “No, a public defender.” And I say, “They are a lawyer.” And they say, “Yeah, they work for the same people that the prosecutor does.” There’s that kind of deep-seated, deep-rooted suspicion of any lawyer plus there’s also, it’s like anything else, people tend to not respect somebody who’s working for free or you’re not paying, you know, there’s a part of human nature that automatically dismisses the person because you’re not paying them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:35] Especially when it’s a suspicious process. Like somebody who’s been disenfranchised their entire life, commits a crime, gets arrested by authorities, incarcerated by authorities and[00:26:43] is hearing all these stories about how the authorities are against them. And then suddenly this young white dude shows up from the suburbs of Detroit and says, “Well, I think you should just tell them you did it. That’s your best bet there, buddy.” And he’s just like, “What? I was not born yesterday. I’m not doing that.” You know, and I just thought, “Oh crap, I have no way to build trust with you right now — at all.”
Mark Geragos: [00:27:04] I’d say, look, the indigent defense is a fairly recent phenomenon. People do not realize that Gideon versus Wainwright, I think is what, 60 years old maybe, where you had the right to a lawyer and that was not originally necessarily, even though you could hire a lawyer. The idea of getting one for free is a fairly recent phenomenon, a criminal court context.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:36] Gideon versus Wainwright was early sixties. So I mean it’s newer even than that. I don’t know how long ago was that? I’m trying to think, was that 50-60 years ago. I can’t remember what you said, but yeah, 50-60 years ago. This isn’t something that’s been American since 1776, right?
Mark Geragos: [00:27:51] When you take a look at some of the things we take for granted and they’re really a function of the last, you know, five or six decades. Miranda right is a fairly recent phenomenon in the history of jurisprudence. Gideon versus Wainwright is a fairly recent phenomenon. The idea of holding the prosecution, to not bringing in hearsay and allowing you to cross examine, it was not really formulated until of all people’s Scalia in the Crawford case. And so that’s, you know, that’s less than 10 years ago. So a lot of the developments, kind of seminal developments in the criminal law are literally in my lifetime.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:36] Working with celebrities, what are the differences in demands of people like that? Because I’m just thinking, wow, it’s hard enough to work with people that are indigent and not paying you, or people that are paying you but are just everyday folks. Celebrities often, at least by reputation, want your attention 24/7. And this is a very important, by the time they’re calling you, Mark, this is a hard time in their life. Maybe the hardest time they’ve ever had in their life. So I can imagine that rabbit ratchets up the level of demand to the point where they must be calling you at 4:00 AM on your cell phone and just wanting to unload and you’re thinking.
Mark Geragos: [00:29:12] Well, part of what happens is, you know, generally most what I call high profile or people who are famous as opposed to infamous. People generally have either an entertainment lawyer or a personal lawyer or they’ve got — if they’re a politician — they got somebody who’s mentored them, who’s usually a lawyer and they’ve had a long standing relationship that’s measured in years.[00:29:43] Generally what I get called in the context of helping somebody who’s high profile or in a situation like that, I’m a one off. They’re going to deal with me on this one occasion and then hopefully they’ll never see me again. I mean that’s, you know, they almost have post-traumatic stress syndrome when I even..
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:03] Happy birthday! Oh my God, you had me…you scared me.
Mark Geragos: [00:30:07] Why are you calling me? I’ve been fortunate to have developed what I consider to be good and lasting friendships with many of the people I’ve represented in horrific situations. But it’s a challenge and a lot of the challenge is not so much derivative of them, but because until you’ve done a number of high profile cases, it’s very hard to get a lawyer to completely understand how much of a time, energy, and soul suck the high profile media nature of the case involves.[00:30:50] Because you’re not only managing the situation, you’re not only managing a client who’s in the crosshairs and who sees their whole life as the worst day of their life. You’re also trying to manage the flow of information because generally nobody leaks like law enforcement and law enforcement is constantly cherry-picking what gets leaked. Clients feel like they’re fighting a battle inside and outside of the courtroom and always want to fight back. Their inclination is, I’ve got to fight back. What do I do with my reputation? You know, there was before there was Ray Donovan, The Showtime series, there was a Ray Donovan who was a Labor Secretary under Ronald Reagan. And Ray Donovan was prosecuted and later acquitted of a federal, I think it was wire fraud or mail fraud charge. And he came out onto the courthouse steps in and said famously, you know, ‘Okay, now where do I go to get my reputation back after I’ve been acquitted?” [00:31:53] And that’s why I often tell clients, you can beat the rap, but not the ride. Getting chewed up by the criminal justice system is something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:03] Wow, that’s really terrifying because you couldn’t lose your reputation no matter what, even if you’re right. And I think this was you that had said this in a video that I was doing when I was doing my homework on you. “If you don’t respond in the court of public opinion, you’ve already lost your case and you can lose anyway.”
Mark Geragos: [00:32:23] It’s exactly right. And there the idea, you know, the generation before me used to look down on any lawyer who was in the media. My, you know, father and all my mentors included. And I used to say, “Well, that was then. This is now.” You know, it’s been since 1950 something since Shepard versus Maxwell, which was a US Supreme court case involving Dr. Sam Shepard, which later became a movie and a TV series — The Fugitive. And that’s where F. Lee Bailey made his career — by getting that reversed for pre-trial publicity. You read the publicity in the Shepard versus Maxwell case and it’s virtually, it’s like quaint. It’s almost too cute compared to what goes on in high profile cases now. So not even in the same stratosphere.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:14] Is there anyone you would not represent on moral grounds? And I know this is a sort of a legal philosophy question that we went through back at the University of Michigan Law School back in the day, but I think again, for non-lawyers, they have trouble wrapping their heads around this kind of thing.
Mark Geragos: [00:33:29] You take it off, especially in California under 6068 of the BMP code that you’re to zealously represent and not turn down a client just because of their, for lack of a better term, notorious nature. I’ve never turned somebody down because the case was notorious and I’ve, you know, represented at various times, probably the most hated men in America. I do however, once again, I’ll invoke Scalia. He used to say, “Well, why can’t lawyers make a choice? They make choices all the time on whether a client can pay.” I, at this point, will make choices based on whether or not I want to deal with the client. I mean is life is too short. If the client’s just an asshole, I generally don’t want to deal with it. And that’s just more out of personal preference than morality however.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:21] I think that makes sense. Yeah, life is definitely too short to deal with people that you don’t want to deal with, especially if you’re helping them and they’re a prick. It’s like, “Come on man, you don’t have enough money for this.”
Mark Geragos: [00:34:29] That’s kind of what I said, but I can’t tell you how often I say “no good deed goes unpunished.” It’s generally true.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:38] This episode is sponsored in part by Varidesk. You’ve probably heard about research that says sitting is the new smoking and which is just so disappointing because I spent a lot of time doing that back in the day. But both sitting now and smoking. But if you do sit at a desk for a good chunk of the day everyday, like most people, you probably concerned about some of the long-term consequences on your health. And you might’ve considered a standing desk, but you balked because standing desk costs like 1200 bucks and they got motors and they’re all this weird stuff and you don’t want to give it to your office for Christ’s sake. Or it might be too big of a change to your daily workflow to last, right? And then you’re like, “Ah, nah.” You’ve got this dumb thing. And I’ll tell you, I got a standing desk.[00:35:15] And then I just ended up getting a higher chair. It was the dumbest thing in the world. So how about, and there’s treadmill desks and you can, you know, stick to your step goals without going to the gym. And it’s like the same issues. It costs you a lot to find out that you don’t like it unless you’re Jason and you do like it. But thankfully Varidesk gives you the flexibility to switch between the options sitting, standing, marching along on the treadmill. You can transform your existing surface into a standing desk and back again. It’s really easy in a fraction of the price. Even better, you can find out for yourself if Varidesk is ideal for you by trying one risk-free for 30 days. They’ll even take care of the shipping both ways if you’re not satisfied, absolutely free. Stand more, sit less, boost your productivity by checking it out for yourself — varidesk.com. That’s V A R I D E S K.com. [00:36:03] How different is the skill of advocating in the courtroom? Different from advocating in public because you have to do both. You especially have to do both. Most lawyers can get away with courtroom stuff, but with your clients, you’ve got to walk behind Michael Jackson. You’ve got to stand next to Chris Brown and you’ve got to walk him in there because if you don’t, it looks like something’s wrong. And these have to be different skill sets because you can say and do totally different things inside and outside and in fact you can’t do the same thing that you would in a courtroom in front of a bunch of journalists who are going to try to spin it and use it against your client.
Mark Geragos: [00:36:39] Yeah, I mean you’ve hit on the balancing act. You have to understand basically who your audience is in any particular case. Sometimes if it’s a case that I know for instance, is never going to go to jury trial, my audience may be the prosecutor and the judge. And so I may take a different tact than I would. If I know a case was going to have to be tried and it’s going to be in the jury pool, then I’ve got a duty to respond to whatever the prosecution’s doing in terms of painting a picture of my client. Otherwise, as you accurately summed up, there was a real problem because by the time I get to picking a jury, I may be so far behind the eight-ball that it doesn’t matter what goes on in the courtroom with the evidence that we’re never going to get past the jury selection.[00:37:30] So you have to think that through and you have to understand it. You also have to understand that what goes on in the court courtroom, you pick your battles in what hills you want to die on. Certain judges you may know and you may know because you’ve been in front of them before, you may know what their inclinations are, you may know where they’re going to, or what they may find to be appropriate, inappropriate and you have to be able, I always tell my young lawyers especially that the one thing you have to do as a lawyer is always remain fluid. You know, the old expression that — I never met a battle plan that survived the first clash — could not be a more apt aphorism for how to practice law and how to try cases. Because every case has got a life of its own. You’ve got to stay fluid, you got to be nimble and you’ve got to be able to move and understand that at certain points, your strategy so to speak, is going to change dramatically.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:29] How does that strategy look? I was reading and watching a lot of interviews of you before this, of course, that then is how I spent most of yesterday and today and you’re very good at being interviewed. Surprise, surprise. One thing that I noticed, it was really what, just really done artfully was, you’re able to, and I don’t mean this in any negative way, it might come out that way. You’re able to deflect or sort of defer questions that attack your clients and do so in a way that really does preserve your client’s dignity. I’m trying to think of an example here. For example, there was a journalist and he had asked you something like, “Well, you know what about Scott Peterson? I mean, that guy, he murdered his pregnant wife. Everyone hates that guy.” It was something along those lines and I thought, wow, for a second. I thought you’re kind of in trouble because you can’t say, “Oh, come on, he’s a great guy because you know he’s on death row and nobody necessarily believes that.” And you can’t say, “Well, there’s always an issue of fact,” because that’s just what lawyers say when they’re like, “You got me on that one.” And you said something that was that just through enough doubt and enough critical thinking brain into the question that you preserved Scott Peterson’s dignity while giving this journalists something that he was just fishing for in a way?
Mark Geragos: [00:39:41] Well, you know, one of the thing is, there’s great journalists and there’s not so great journalists like anything else. And one of the, sometimes I’ve been, I think for having done this 35 years or so, that one of the things that I’ve learned is, is that you just can’t get dragged into whatever the gotcha-moment is that there needs to be, I mean, I try to view it as an educational process. I mean, I remember one particular time that I’d seen, I saw a clip of this the other night, and I forget in what context, but it was when somebody who’s revoking a judge, I think it was Brandlin was revoking Chris Brown’s probation because when he was in rehab, he had said something and then they kicked him out of rehab and that was going to be the revocation and it was a feeding frenzy out in front of the criminal courts building downtown.[00:40:36] And we were doing the press conference and everybody wanted to know, you know, why did he say this? Why didn’t you say that? And it struck me and I said at the time, I said, “Look, the guy’s making an effort. He voluntarily went into rehab. He is in a therapeutic setting and guess what? He has a bad day. I’ve had a bad day. You have a bad day, you know, not every day is good. Do you say stuff you’d like to take back? Absolutely. Say stuff that you’d like to take back. I do that every day. So that’s what he did in a therapeutic setting. And it seems to me that it’s a little harsh that we throw somebody into custody who’s actually just trying to work through their issues.” So I just try to phrase these things. I don’t mean it so much as deflection as to try to just get into what it is that is the real issue here. Get to the core of what the issue is in a particular setting, so to speak. And that’s kind of what the approach I always take is.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:34] Is there a formula for this really? I mean, do you think of the questions that you’re going to face ahead of time if you have to do this? I know a lot of lawyer, man, this thing we watched a million years ago, it had to do with cross-examination and the only video of it, in fact, let me find this, we’ll throw this in the show notes. This is a very famous professor, Irving Younger. Do you know who I’m talking about? 10 commandments of cross examination. I think it’s from like, it’s got to be from the eighties or something and one of them, this is where the infamous or famous adage or Maxim — Never ask a question if you don’t already know the answer.
Mark Geragos: [00:42:10] Yeah, I like to say the mark of a true trial lawyer is when you can ask a question you don’t know the answer to and you get the answer you want.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:21] I guess that would be the magic sauce, but that might be a little bit harder of course, because you have to be a little prescient.
Mark Geragos: [00:42:28] Yes, it is. And yet, but ultimately at the end of the day, one of the things that I think one of the truisms about trials is that to be a good trial lawyer, you need to be a student, a constant student of human nature. And you have to understand human nature. You have to always try to put yourself in, not just your client’s shoes, but the prosecutor’s shoes, the judge’s shoes, the witnesses shoes. You have to understand what the witness is trying to do and what the witness’s motivation is. And where are the witnesses coming from? And if you do that, there aren’t that many variations on a theme. We humans are remarkable. We have a remarkably slim bandwidth when it comes to our motivations and our desires and our fears. And if you, once you understand that, once you stop thinking like a lawyer and start thinking like a human being, it’s invigorating.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:24] When you started studying human nature, was this something you noticed you needed in the legal field or was this something that you had started studying beforehand that you just found served really well at trial?
Mark Geragos: [00:43:35] I was always fascinated, always fascinated with theology and anthropology and sociology. In fact, those were kind of my three majors and minors in college.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:47] That’s why I thought you went to law school. I went, “Well, you study anthropology and sociology, you’re unemployable. You better go to law school.” That’s why I thought you went there.
Mark Geragos: [00:43:54] That was once again, my father, who I love to quote used to say when I told him I was — he asked me what my major was and I said, “Cultural anthropology and sociology,” and he said that in the quarter or I’ll buy you a cup of coffee. But it was interesting to me to study other cultures, civilizations and be able to at least to, you know, 80-85 percent be able to see that there were commonality across the entire spectrum of certain kinds of structures, human inclinations, human needs. And when you start to understand that and when you start to understand the role of theology and the role of religion and what that means to the human mind, it gives you a great window into how humans act and will react, so to speak in certain situations.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:51] You were talking about cross-examination on CNN, this was this gal Arias was on the stand and then you mentioned the prosecutor. You actually, I think you were a little down on this prosecutor and you were saying, “His posture, his body language. I mean, it’s all wrong and he’s just going on for days.” What are you looking at when you’re looking at posture, body language, non-verbal communication? How do you consciously or unconsciously, now that you’ve been doing it for so long, apply these concepts in court at trial?
Mark Geragos: [00:45:20] Look, there is nothing wrong with being selectively theatric in a trial, but as I also try to teach the lawyers, ultimately at the end of the day, you want the jurors to focus. First of all, you’ve got to have credibility with the jury. If you don’t have credibility with the jury, you’re lost. They’ll wheel on you, they’ll turn on you immediately and you’re your client’s voice. So you have to be a fair arbiter of what’s going on in that courtroom. And you have to get them to focus on the witness and get them to focus, especially if it’s a difficult witness for your position. You need to get them to focus on this and to go there with you. And the only way you go there with you or you’re going to have the jurors go there with you and you don’t need all the jurors by the way, part of the secret of a jury trial is, you don’t need 12 jurors. You need three or four strong jurors who are going to roll the others. And if you are not speaking to them and if they’re not, you know, with you, you’re nowhere. And that’s why it was so hard on that prosecutor. He was more interested in preening for the camera than he was in trying to prove his case.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:36] Now, did anything change in your approach in the courtroom once TV cameras came into the picture because you were in the middle of your career when they went, “Eh, screw it, we can film in here now.” That must’ve changed the dynamics.
Mark Geragos: [00:46:48] One of the interesting things, I’ve tried a couple of civil cases in the last 10 years up in your neighborhood in San Jose, over at the Santa Clara courthouse. Both had been televised and the camera’s there, but you tend to forget about it fairly quickly. And I know that just from having tried two long cases in the Santa Clara courthouse, and both of those, the film, they ended up selling it. In fact, I should’ve been smarter and made sure I got a royalty, but they ended up selling those, as practice guides for the particular litigation. And I think it probably has more effect on witnesses than it does on lawyers generally. Although some lawyers get carried away.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:35] How do you mean more effects on witnesses?
Mark Geragos: [00:47:38] I think the witnesses are more intimidated because there’s a crate camera in the courtroom. I also think a lot of times it intimidates judges, judges who normally might do something that I would term, more courageous, will be more afraid if there’s a camera in the courtroom.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:54] Yeah, I can see that because they realize they’re going to be up for scrutiny or if they misspeak, it’s not going to look good. And what about with clients? You know you don’t want someone to “look guilty,” guilty or innocent? You might have to coach them or get them some media coaching. Do you give them media coaching? How does that work?
Mark Geragos: [00:48:14] I generally try, by the time you get to trial and mind you, one of the last things you ever wanted to do as a criminal defense lawyer is ever put your own client on the stand. That’s the worst situation of all. I can’t even tell you how many times that’s that I tried to talk them out of it. The coaching idea is generally along the lines of, “Look, this is what I either like about you or I don’t like about you and here are the, you’ve seen this jury. If you start fighting or acting like an asshole or get agitated, you’re going to lose this juror, that jurors.” So I try to give them the lay of the land and if you can do that in a way, and if you can relax them through the direct exam, then it’s really up to them to try to chill out during the cross. And unfortunately for some clients and mind you in civil cases, you don’t have a choice. The clients almost always got to testify. But in criminal cases, often times, nine times out of 10, I try to try the case without putting the client on.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:21] That makes sense. Of course. Because kind of things can only go wrong from there. They can have nervousness.
Mark Geragos: [00:49:27] It’s a rare case that gets better for the defense after the prosecution rests.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:33] Yeah, I can see that as or under cross or anything like that. I mean, yeah, it’s just…
Mark Geragos: [00:49:37] Well because remember jurors are going to stop focusing on the defects in the prosecution’s case and they’re going to get back there. What did the defendant say? What did the accused say? I mean, that’s always the case. It’s natural, it’s human nature.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:50] Okay, that makes sense. What about clients that are used to being in the media? Do you have to tell them, tone it down? I mean, I remember in one instance, Michael Jackson was being prosecuted or accused, I should say, of molestation and he jumps up on his SUV and he’s waving to his fans and it’s like, I get it. I totally understand why he did that, but I kind of feel like his lawyer, which was not you at the time, might’ve been like, ‘Hey, maybe don’t do a back flip in front of your audience.”
Mark Geragos: [00:50:16] Actually, that was me at the time. I was there with Ben Brockman, who was my co-counsel. I turned to Ben. My first reaction was, “How does some guy his age make that kind of leap on top of that thing?” And then Ben tells the joke that he turned to me and he says, “If we don’t get this under control, this guy’s going to come to court next time in his pajamas,” which he ended up doing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:36] Did he really? He came to court in his pajamas. He must’ve been in bad shape at that point. I mean, that’s, no, not normal.
Mark Geragos: [00:50:42] I always felt bad for Michael. I mean, that was a horrific thing for him to go through.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:48] Yeah. I know what being involved in legal stuff feels like firsthand, both from a practicing perspective as an attorney and also from being in the middle of the civil litigations. So I can only imagine what it’s like. It’s got to be times a hundred when you’re accused of something like that. And you’re such a high profile person, I mean, there’s just no way.
Mark Geragos: [00:51:07] It’s true. I mean, my feeling is, you know, civil, you’re always fighting about OPM — other people’s money. And so, you know, it’s just a money transfer. But criminal, you’re talking about people’s lives and so that takes a bit of your soul.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:22] Yeah. Oh my goodness. How do you keep your emotions from interfering with your advocacy? I mean in either way because you’re so annoyed with one side or the other, or because you feel so bad for your clients or there’s got to be so many different bits of hormones and adrenaline and guilt and things like that depending on the case. How do you isolate that?
Mark Geragos: [00:51:44] Yeah, it’s very difficult to do. I don’t know that you ever really want to, in some ways. I mean, I think you got to be authentic. You have to try to control it. Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who used to talk about not having too many highs and too many lows and trying to keep you somewhere grounded. And I always thought that was great advice. Probably got that from John Wooden.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:05] The Daniel Shaver case comes to mind when I think of the emotional element here. I mean, Daniel Shaver, for those listening, this is a 26 year old guy, he’s in Vegas and he’s, I think, he’s killing rats with a pellet gun or something and someone calls the police.
Mark Geragos: [00:52:20] He’s killed pigeons that were part of his job. And he was killing pigeons at Walmart from four to six.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:27] In the morning? Because he’s got vermin or something. He basically, he’s an exterminator and he gets to use a pellet gun. He’s 26 and it’s all on this body cam video and he’s in the hallway and he’s saying, “Please don’t shoot me.” And the cops yelling at him and he’s saying, “Put your hands in the air.” And then he’s saying, “Crawl towards me.” Then he’s saying, “Put your hands in the air,” and this guy is confused and he’s begging for his life. And then suddenly they just opened fire with assault rifles and shoot him five times and it turns out he didn’t have a gun and he was totally compliant. And then, you know, it just makes, that kind of thing just makes me so angry. I just start, I start tearing up. I’m so enraged by stuff like that. I’m not even an emotional person and I just, I don’t know how I would retain composure, especially when you’ve got this case lined up against you where all of these other people, the trainers and things are testifying and it’s just so clearly on video that this was inappropriate. There’s just no getting around it. There just isn’t.
Mark Geragos: [00:53:22] I’ll tell you one of the, I mean, you set that up completely and accurately, one of the most difficult times I’ve ever had is that was a criminal prosecution for murder against the cop. And they would not let the video out. When I say they — the prosecution, the defense, the judge — and I knew the reason why, because if they saw this video, there’s no way this cop would ever be acquitted and the cop, so they played that video. And Laney, who was the widow who is my client and who I adore, has like become a daughter to me and her two daughters are just a little angels. Laney and I sat in that courtroom and she had watched it one time without me the day before and then we watched it together and she literally went into convulsions as she watched it.[00:54:18] And I bear hugged her in the courtroom as she was convulsing. And I, this is one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had watching that video that people have seen now. And knowing the family is one of the most disheartening things. I plan on getting civil justice for them, but civil justice, ultimately at the end of the day is just money. And what good does that do? This guy was acquitted. He’s now trying to get his job back. The guy who’s screaming on that video, should have been prosecuted and I still hold out hope that the offense will do the right thing and come in and prosecute both the guy who was screaming on the video, escalating the situation, and the shooter because the two of them, if that is what they think that law enforcement should be doing, my retort to that is, if that had happened overseas in a war zone, it’d be an international work run.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:20] Absolutely. I mean this video, if you want, at your own risk, if you Google the Daniel Shaver body cam video, I mean this is something that is just so traumatizing because I love police officers and law enforcement and I believe strongly that they’re often almost always doing the right thing. They’re trying to protect themselves as a very dangerous job. This video really finds these two bad apples and just goes, look what these guys did and you can do all the gymnastics that you want and you still can’t justify what you’re seeing in this video. You just can’t. You cannot do it.
Mark Geragos: [00:55:53] There’s no way. Only, only if you, you know what they excluded from the jury hearing is inscribed on this guy’s gun is the term – “You’re fucked.” And they didn’t let the jury hear that because they said it was irrelevant.[00:56:12] And I’m saying to myself, well, the definition of murder is malice of forethought, which is your mental state — a dark or corrupt heart, a malignant heart. What better evidence of somebody’s state of mind is that his own personal AR automatic gun is inscribed with “You’re fucked.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:33] Yeah, I mean, and he had already been terminated for other kinds of misbehavior and it’s just, I understand keeping things from a jury that are going to be emotionally charging if they’re not relevant to a case. Volkswagen, they excluded some video of testing emissions on monkeys because it really is disgusting. But it wasn’t necessarily germane to the particular use of a defeat device in the emissions test. But this kind of evidence, the body cam, I mean, I’m sorry, I pay for that. I’m a taxpayer. That’s my body cam and this is a public authority.
Mark Geragos: [00:57:07] And explain to me why the public isn’t entitled to see that, especially after it was admitted as an exhibit in the court and there’s only one explanation because they know if the public had seen it, this guy never would have been acquitted.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:22] Yeah. It just seems, I just don’t understand things like that. How does it feel? This was probably a stupid question. I don’t care. How does it feel when you lose a case like that? That is so obviously a slam dunk in the first place. Like the execution of Daniel Shaver.
Mark Geragos: [00:57:36] I felt bad for the prosecutor in that case. I wish I had tried that criminal case. I wish they’d made me a special prosecutor. I mean, I like Susie Charbel, who was the prosecutor. She tried but I’m not going to lose the civil case.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:51] That’s good. I mean, one last thing that she has to worry about, taking care of her kids with losing her husband in such a way. I mean, that video is so traumatizing and I’m just not over that at any point. My wife and I made the mistake of watching.
Mark Geragos: [00:58:04] You never will be. I’m telling you. It’s just, it’s awful.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:08] So before we wrap, I do have to ask, who’s your favorite client? Is that even a fair question? Is that something that you can, is it like picking your kids?
Mark Geragos: [00:58:15] No, that’s a very tough question because I really like a lot of my clients. Really like a lot. Chris Brown to me is like a son. Susan McDougal is always going to be special to me. Mia St. John who had the horrific, I represented her and Julio St. John on the death of their son, Mia is a good friend and I communicate with her frequently and just adore all the good work that she’s doing arising out of the tragedy of her son’s death.[00:58:48] And I can think of, I’ve represented, thinking of one client, he probably wouldn’t want me to mention his name. I’ve tried probably five jury trials for him years ago, but he’s become a very good friend as well. I mean I’ve been blessed that way to have spectacular clients.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:09] Yeah. Chris Brown owes you one, too. How long until he drops your name on a track or has that happened already?
Mark Geragos: [00:59:15] Yes. Yes.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:16] Okay, good.
Mark Geragos: [00:59:17] He did a documentary, invited me to the premiere and he had quite a bit of me in it and in Welcome to My Life, and my son was the one who brought to my attention that he gave me a shout out on one of his songs.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:27] Oh, that’s good. I felt like you were kind of being, you know, it’s like not ever winning a Grammy or something. It’s like, come on, you know, you help all these people out. You got to get some pop culture love, too.
Mark Geragos: [00:59:40] I love it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:41] Has there ever been a case in the media that you just wish was yours?
Mark Geragos: [00:59:44] I think I would have — and I’ve talked to him about it, I wish I had tried Mike Tyson’s rape case in Indiana. Why? I think if you asked Mike, he wishes he had had me try it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:57] Yeah, probably. Yeah, probably.
Mark Geragos: [00:59:59] I didn’t know Mike at that time. I’ve represented Mike on and off for a number of years, but mostly on civil type stuff. But yeah, that would have been the one case I wish I would have tried.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:11] Why did you want to take that case specifically?
Mark Geragos: [01:00:13] I think Mike should have won it, I think that was an injustice. Mike Tyson has got, you know, his ups and downs. But that was I think a miscarriage of justice.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:25] Mark, thank you so much.
Mark Geragos: [01:00:26] No! It was a good conversation. I appreciate it. Thank you guys.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:31] So Jason, I got to admit some, I always knew Mark was smart. I always knew was a good guy, but I was a little bit like, “Oh man, I don’t know celebrity lawyer. It’s not quite in my wheelhouse. How interesting is this going to be?” Because of course he can’t say, “Here’s all this inside information on all my clients.” Right? We couldn’t go down that road. So I thought, “What am I, what are we going to get here?”
Jason DeFillippo: [01:00:49] He wouldn’t be that good of a lawyer if he was going to spill the dirt to just us.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:52] “Let me tell you who’s guilty.” You know, that’s not how that was going to go. And I saw that, of course I knew that, but I’m so glad because he’s clearly done a lot of deep thinking about all of this meta stuff that I frankly wasn’t sure he was going to be able to comment on at all. And that for me was gold. And I’m really looking forward to being a regular on his show with Adam Carolla — Reasonable Doubt — on the PodcastOne Network, where are we going to be discussing a lot of concepts like nonverbal communication in a courtroom. And I’m going to take my expertise and sort of overlap it with his and that of Adam Carolla and I’m going to be doing a regular segment there every single month. So I’m excited about that. This was a good rapport. You know, it would’ve been pretty tricky if I’d left this interview and he was like, “What a Schmo!” that wouldn’t have worked out so well.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:01:37] That wouldn’t have really, you know, bode well for your guest appearances on his show. But I got to say, I’ve been watching Mark on TV since I moved to L.A., like back in the early nineties and never would I ever have thought that we’d be doing a show with him. But what a cool cat, you know, and you know, I know you had the lawyer angle, but for me, him being a tour manager for Siouxsie and the Banshees way back in the day, I thought that was pretty cool that he got some super cool credit for me for that.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:02] I knew you were going to say something about that because I was like, what? This super-educated, smart lawyer guy has this weird punk rock streak. You know, where Jason was probably smoking a spliff and riding a skateboard, hiding out behind the theater or whatever back in the day.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:02:17] I never took the pot, as they said.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:19] You never smoked the marijuana? I’m surprised.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:02:21] No, I stayed away from the marijuana. It’s really hard to skateboard and get high at the same time. I think it’s very interesting to know that you have somebody like this who’s a lawyer and a high performer and has his rock and roll side and you look at somebody like Joi Ito out there who was a DJ back in the day. It’s like music, I think is an underlying theme for a lot of these guys in their future. I think it’s pretty cool.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:43] I played the flute. I’m not going to tell you what that got me — mostly beatings. But all right, whatever, I don’t want to go down that road. It’s too early to get depressed. Great big thank you to Mark Geragos. If you enjoyed this one, don’t forget to thank Mark on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you via email or on Instagram. I’m @JordanHarbinger on Instagram. That’ll of course I’ll be linked up for the show notes for this episode, which can be found at jordanharbinger.com. By the way, of course I’ve changed contact info. I am now email@example.com. I can no longer get email at my old email address. So you got to reach out. If you reached out to me in the past month or two, firstname.lastname@example.org is where I’m at now. I will not get your message in the old place most likely, but like they say onward and upward.[01:03:32] By the way, a lot of you had hit me up on social media and asked what’s going to happen with the Friday episodes where we give feedback to you. We’re still going to be doing Feedback Friday as opposed to, well we had been doing before but Feedback Friday and you have to send, unfortunately, if you emailed the old email address that is just — I don’t know what’s going to happen to that. So you can email our new inbox email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. And we’ll be taking your letters there and we’re going to have something new for you this Friday. This episode of the Jordan Harbinger Show was produced and edited by Jason DeFillippo. I’m your host Jordan Harbinger. Share the show with those you love and even those you don’t. We’ve got lots more in the pipeline and we’re excited to bring it to you. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show so you can live what you listen and we’ll see you next time.
Rob Riggle: [01:04:23] Hey, it’s Rob Riggle and Sarah Tiana. You are listening to Riggle’s Picks. Yeah, the ham horn. And we have a new podcast. You can find our show exclusively on the PodcastOne app, on PodcastOneSports.com. And don’t forget to rate, review and subscribe on Apple podcast. Every Thursday. We’re going to sit around and we’re going to talk about the things that really excite us, like life, comedy, sports, a lot of sports, ourselves. A lot of Sarah. Yeah. Kim Jong-Un. Whatever. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I hope you join us.